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Accused terror figure 'never supported Al Qaeda,' brother says

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An Orange County security guard accused of trying to make his way to Syria to aid a terrorist group was a religious man and not an Al Qaeda supporter, his brother said in an interview Monday.

"I believe this is a time that he was looking for God," said T. Nguyen, the older brother of suspect Sinh Vinh Ngo Nguyen.

Authorities alleged that Nguyen was headed for Mexico where he intended to fly to Lebanon and cross the border into Syria, traveling under the name Hasan Abu Omar Ghannoum. Federal officials charged him with trying to aid the terrorist group Al Qaeda and he is now being held without bail.

"He never supported Al Qaeda," added T. Nguyen.

The older brother said that Sinh Nguyen was a religious explorer who had converted to Islam about a year ago but continued to sometimes go to Catholic Mass with his mother.

He said his sibling studied the Bible, the Quran and once spent hours talking with Mormon missionaries in the family’s Garden Grove home.

“He was pretty open-minded about religion,” said the brother, standing on the front porch of the family’s modest home in the Little Saigon district in central Orange County.

Sinh Nguyen, he said, is the fourth of six children -- all of them born in the United States to immigrant parents.

T. Nguyen said he would spent hours discussing religion with his younger brother, who he said has become more settled and “civil” after studying the Bible. Before, the brother said, “we used to disagree a lot.”

Nguyen’s mother, Hieu Nguyen, said she was shocked by the arrest.

The brother said that authorities armed with a search warrant showed up at the family home early Friday and combed Sinh Nguyen’s bedroom, confiscating computers and a cellphone. He said the agents moved quickly -- by the time his grandparents had returned from their morning walk, they had left.

The family has not hired a lawyer and T. Nguyen said he is unsure if his brother will be transferred to a different jail.

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